When writing a researched essay, you will have to incorporate all of your sources in some manner or another in order to create a well-researched and supported argument. However, some students worry a lot about how they can incorporate these sources well, especially if they’re scared of plagiarizing a source.
In order to simplify the process of properly using sources in your paper, think of three words: summarize, paraphrase, quote. These three methods will help you properly engage with your sources in a way that your reader (and professor) can understand.
The first method, summarizing, is a way of incorporating a source into the paper that is far too complex and long to fully engage with. When you have a source that you’d like to use all of, but you can’t quite fit it all into a six page paper, you should consider summarizing the position of that source. This will show readers that you have engaged with the source, and it will also let readers track down the source on their own and get their own opinion if they want to. But it also shows that the source may not be as important as other sources.
The second method of incorporating sources into your paper is to paraphrase them. When you paraphrase another author, you essentially reword his or her ideas in such a way as to better blend into your own writing. You should still attribute the source (otherwise, you’re plagiarizing), but you can rephrase in a way that presents the information of the source without ruining the flow of your own voice. This is helpful for avoiding clunky quotations in odd places.
The last method of putting a source into your paper is to directly quote that source. When you directly quote a source, you let the voice of the source take its own place in your text. In other words, you do not directly filter the voice, though you can present it or prelude it with your own interpretation. Readers will see the direct quotation and can then agree or disagree with how you’ve handled it. One risk of directly quoting a source is that if done too much, it can lead to the other sources and their voices taking over your paper and drowning out your own ideas.
Finally, when using these three methods, you should always be sure to properly attribute the sources whenever you refer to them. This will ensure that you maintain credibility as a scholar, while also allowing you to engage responsibly with the other texts.